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tv   Book Discussion on Prisoners of the White House  CSPAN  January 19, 2014 8:00am-9:05am EST

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if we can solve the iran problem, if we can demonstrate that diplomacy can make a deal with the regime, that to change the regime's behavior rather than change the regime, that might have some benefit with the situation with north korea. it partial influences the north koreans, but more important influencing the partners around north korea, particularly china to assist in diplomatic efforts. >> we could go on all afternoon, i'm confident. actually chill will be here most of the afternoon. so what we will do is we will take a break now and joe will be outside signing books and reading you, and i'm sure would be happy to talk further with you. so if you would please, join me in thanking joe for his time and for visiting us in charlotte. >> thank you very much. it's been a real pleasure. thank you. [applause] ..
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[applause] >> welcome. thank you all for coming. i want to also acknowledge my
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friends in the audience here, claire, steve and my daughter jean who actually encouraged me reprieved it we to arrange this event, which i'm so glad i did. i was visiting that jesus had been here in the area, so i'm so glad i perceived that i listen to my daughter. that was great. i will come back to my main prepared remarks any moment. today of course is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of resident kennedy. those of us have a certain issue that it very well. we are looking at the audience, most of you are the same category as value that remember where we were, what we were doing. there are lessons that kennedy so can teach. i'll show you all the books and documentaries and tv shows, terry python. one thing that has a direct
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relevance to my talk is that he listened and learned. having covered the white house, i can tell you many presidents do not listen and learn. they are frozen in their own little bubble and they don't break out of it. president kennedy managed to do this. he was an american aristocrat they came from about the family. his dad, joe kennedy, financed his political career, but when he took office, he expected to be a president dealing with the superpower relationship. u.s. versus the soviet union. with african-americans was with valet future have two baths a day. he notice that this tremendous ferment was going on called the civil rights movement.
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by 1963, the year he was killed, he had embraced the civil rights movement. that is one example he paid attention to the news media. one point this out is registered with me if he was a hero in world war ii and the pacific at the admire physical bravery. i paid attention to what was going on in the country, by the way, presidents for years have not paid a lot of attention to the news media. kennedy did pay attention. he saw the protesters being read and been arrested or police dogs, fire hoses and it might their physical bravery. so you remember 63 was the year at the march on washington. embrace the civil rights movement, so he listened and learned it was on the right side of history. a couple two quick examples that have direct relevance versus the white house notion.
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he also listened and learned policy. he had two fundamental decisions he had to make. the most romantic and visible decisions. one was how to deal with the bay of pigs invasion in 1961 shortly after he became president. the second was how did he deal with the cuban missile crisis in 1962? the difference is night and day. he was a neophyte the first crisis and it went very badly. the invasion failed. the u.s. support never materialized and has a terrible embarrassment for the country around the world to kennedy and my own research i found this to be true. he concluded after the first bay of pigs crisis that he was too much in a bubble in the white house because he was listening too much to the so-called experts in the military and the intelligence community.
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he realized these people at the little bubble that they were in. at that time, our military brats are basically hawksley curtis lemay. but then he realized he couldn't pay attention to these folks as much as he had to. he brought in the inner circles of i.t. in the cuban missile crisis, in addition to the military brass, he was found as a judgment he was skeptical the year before and he was much more adept at making these decisions. of course, the cuban missile crisis goes down as a success for the united states that lasted to this day as we look at the kennedy administration. just as a moment in history, given that this is the university of president kennedy set, i wanted to start out with a kennedy moment like someone who did listen and learn and was able to break out of the
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isolation of the white house. now, this notion of the isolation of the white house is in a very long time. president washington in 1789 understate the national isolation the president would have, even though he was the first president and was having a lot of precedents. even the title of the president indicates the father without the beginning. they want to call our president. they came up with different titles, his highness. one title was his hide mightiness. george washington said they sound great, but mr. president will be just fine and not the title he adopted an escape to this day. harry truman called the white house the great white jail. president clinton said it was the crown jewel in the federal penitentiary system. president obama said what the mistakes of his first term was failing to break out of the
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white house and mover of the country as much as he showed a tiny stream to change that now. so we've had the problem. church radios have biases funded johnson's 45 years ago wrote a book called the twilight of the presidency and he said the biggest problem he could see coming from the presidency was being isolated from reality. if anything, it's gotten worse in them because of many of the fact as i'm about to talk about. some of them are positive thing from the president's day-to-day life. the president has treated like a king in some ways. ichat white house staff that is there to do whatever the president wants. in addition to the official political staff. there's camp david, presidential retreat, air force one and i wrote a book about air force one that i can tell you of the five
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presidents have cover, does that mean they always say the most when they leave office, defying white house. never has to rate, having been traveling a lot lately, never have to wait in line at the airport or have your plane delayed. the query to malice what can this sky for air force one. so it is a wonderful way to travel the president monday. the point i'm making is that the very abnormal life. i first started covering the white house, went to the northwest gate in 1996. shortly after that, i realized how abnormal the president's life is. some is positive, some as negative. the positive parts is all of the other purposes of the white house, the family theater, the military golf courses which president obama uses and the tremendous deference people give you. but on the other side, the lights of the president is difficult to deal with to keep
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in contact for a number of reasons. we talked about the kennedy assassination. every time there's a security issue, whether it is attempted assassination, 9/11, the security goes up and never goes back to the way it was before. were talking about his earlier about how the security gets more and more intense. did the secret service guys all over. one on each side in the podium, halls, as trees, plainclothes secret agency and the ideas. i remember interviewing president obama and there's literally a secret service agent behind the curve standing there. i'm not a very menacing looking president, and i? nonetheless, this is what they do. you just wonder how they could have any normal human interaction at this incredible security fence around everywhere. they try to break out of the white house and meet with families in their homes.
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president jimmy carter stayed overnight in people's homes. that must be quite difficult because i've had a security when there is a document to president clinton come to my house in the washington area. you know, people look in your closets, under your bed. they looked everywhere. the president didn't end up coming, but i got a taste of what it was like. president carter stayed in people's homes, trying to reach out, trying to get a sense of everyday life. the big democratic donors have given all this money to you. why can't you stay with me? suicide say that everyday people and started staying with the donors. another example of how difficult it is for the president to stay in touch. the decisions a president makes also causes problems. i have a number of photos that had access to over the years. one is a dramatic picture of
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lyndon johnson who is one of the president listed in the book has been isolated and stuck in a bubble at the end of his presidency. he was almost literally a prison or the white house because of the decisions he made. notably the vietnam war. we think today i want double and difficult our politics are, but remember the protest that lyndon johnson had to do it and hey, hey, lbj, how many kids did you kill today? that's the toughest minded politician to deal with. he had to deal with that day after day. for a while it again, he could not speak except in military bases where there was deference shown to the commander-in-chief or conservative campuses. everywhere else it would be derelict, sometimes violent dems nation against the vietnam war. richard nixon felt the same way. yet the same problem as he escalated the war. he also was a prisoner at the white house in many ways.
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he retreated more and more into his inner circle, didn't break out of it and didn't feel the need to. by the time of the watergate scandal, an example of how isolated nixon was at this paranoiac atmosphere found him. he was only talking to a couple of staffers at the white house and was really a very isolated and lonely person in many ways. so that's sort of another example. i'm glad to talk further about the individual presents. certainly more of a high note, who are the presidents who seem to have broken out of the bubble, who seem to have broken out into the regular life of the country and try to understand? when was the person i consider the first modern president, franklin roosevelt. franklin roosevelt was paralyzed from polio, which she contract when he was 39 years old. you never recovered the use of his legs. but he would take therapy.
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he struggled all of his life to recover his ability, but he never could yemenis see the pictures of roosevelt going to the podium when it's about to speak, is working very slowly, waving, looks like he's having a great time. this is an act. if you look carefully, he had two early bodyguards holding him by the elbows to make it look like she's walking, but obviously had steel braces on his legs from his hips to his ankles. by the time he reached the podium, he was sweating, energy was being stopped, but he kept at it. the point i'm raising here is franklin roosevelt empathy because of the polio he had. eleanor, his wife said he never would've been this this tremendously empathetic president if he had not had the polio. he made use of sadness public life. he might've seen the movie warm springs, about roosevelt and his younger days when he bought the
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property in warm springs, georgia, rehabilitation center essentially for children with polio. he would do down there, even as president as often as he could. he can go to this site to show the children with their pc is a man feel better. he never recovered the use of his legs, but he tried to teach the children that even the president has to persevere and struggle sometimes. he played a little water polo game is the one. but the kids there didn't think of him as president roosevelt. the thought of in a stock roosevelt. that was the nickname they gave him. that was the point of the story because roosevelt could've had european rehabilitation anywhere you wanted to as a wealthy man, but he kept going back in order to give an example to the children. i was always a wonderful story. eleanor felt the polio case in empathy with the country and
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that helped make him a better president. one other quick point about roosevelt. he realized that since he couldn't get around the country as the one at two, he relied on eleanor, his wife, should you afford it. he became what she called his eyes and ears. she cobbled on the country, go to places never before. sure to make that labor camps, inner cities. she went to the coal mines is a famous case where she went down in the mindset to pennsylvania wearing a miner's outfit. she would report back to franklin. so she was serving almost as a reporter. she found a way to connect with him as president, but they were having troubles of their marriage. this is the way she could be a partner because he looked forward to her coming back from her trips in giving a fact-finding donors and very voluminous notetaker and he valued this.
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in the beginning, he felt he had to give her some instruction on how to do this. i was in a song for the elderly and they treated the people wonderfully. you should see the menus come the things they served. they would say digital equipment pots in the kitchen? did you see the menu they were serving was being served? they did that from then on as he became a very keen observer. this really helped franklin roosevelt keep in touch. one of the examples from the that the president should draw is listen to your spouse. i don't think presidents do that nearly enough. i'll come back to that in a moment. another president to try to stay in touch with bill clinton. bill clinton of course is a very self-indulgent pride as we learned during the monica wolinsky year. i got to know clinton very well during his presidency and he
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really did try to reach out in a number of ways. he had a fax machine at the white house that he gave out to his friends around the country who could send him a note direct late to tell him what they think about his policies, his speeches and so on and he read them and go back to his friends. i thought that was a positive thing he did. there were many times where he taught to people. he was notorious for being late. part of the reason he was late as he was talking to individuals. if you could get the minute private moment, he lets you keep talking. a lot of us i was still at the rating for bill clinton all the time. when he did an interview with him, i did a number of times committee benefited he cares he wanted to know what you are thinking about as a reporter. talk about flattery when the president asks what do you think about this? part of it is public relations. but he was interested.
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there were cases where he would come back from long trips. this is an example of how we tried to reach out. sometimes he would come back and talk to us in the press corps. some on air force one to talk to us in the media. bill clinton did. he would come back and talk to us, sometimes for like an hour and a staff would be horrified. what is the president saying? he hasn't been briefed. you just like to chat. one time coming back from australia, air force one has a compartment in the very back where a group of reporters traveled. everybody gets a turn in the press corps. it happened to be my turn coming back from australia with a 22 hour flight halfway through it. the cabin was dark about 2:00 in the morning local time, standing there at the soft drink. everybody's asleep thinking how my going to pass the next 10
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hours? bill clinton. he's gone on a t-shirt, jeans, flip-flops. nobody sets in. everybody's asleep including his son's death. so i'm standing there thinking, well, to make up the other press people? the cameras go on or do i just talked to the president myself and bruce mcculloch slater? so what do you think i did? i talk to the president. a half-hour. he talked about the politics of the philippines and he taught about the leaders he had not any talked about holding baby koalas snorkeling in the great barrier reef. it was huge. i know something. i don't know why he taught about that. but as a reporter, that's what she wanted to get. you want to get to know the president. i felt i had a little behind the
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curtain and you got a feeling for the intellectual curiosity, sort of a brilliant mind. of course, everything came back to him. as they say, this self-indulgence we saw also been the model went he scandal. in trying to reach out. you read letters. he was very much interested in keeping in contact with people that way. president obama does that today. franklin roosevelt read a lot of letters as well. but clinton is going to try to stay in touch. one other point about clinton. he was really into polling. he had enough of his time in office. i think generally that's a good thing as fun as the overdo it. at one point in his reelection a year before his reelection campaign, which he won, he asked
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the pollster is president clinton came up with the idea of pulling where he should go on vacation. so they found most americans felt that the president should go to a national park. it makes sense. clinton went out west to the grand canyon and he hated it. he's not an outdoor type. bugs, swatting flies. they had a tough time finding pictures to make him look like he was having a good time. after you as we like it, he never went back to the national park. he went to martha's vineyard where he went and everybody -- all the stars and entertainers he admired were not paying a 10 cents in. it was an interesting insight. i think i credit him for that. ronald reagan gets a lot of your former governors in california, a lot of criticism for being isolated or been too much in the
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pocket of the wealthy and corporations and so on. but there was another side of right and to be fair. i covered the last two and half years of breaking. reagan had a command is -- first of all can a tremendous post in california and utah, but he had a tremendous correspondence with people. thousands and thousands of letters. president obama talks about letters today. the president breaking connect did the incredible letter writing that was kept private. one case i will share with you that just summarizes this to show he was trying to keep in his own way. he went to a grammar school in washington d.c. and asked the principal to give him the name of a student he could be a penpal with. so they came up with the name of a guy named rudy hines, young african-american student. we didn't know anything about this.
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he felt they would be distorted, intruding on the privacy of the people he's writing about. but he did kerry on a correspondence and actually, visited and had them come to the white house at the single mom. he went to their house to have dinner secretly. i'd are how we did that because we felt we were keeping tabs on it. it did this all through the end of his presidency. after he left office. rudy hines band anatol showed up at his funeral. he greatly admired reagan in the end. but it just as sometimes we really don't get the full picture of these presidents until they leave office. in reagan's case, he did try to keep in contact. at least we recognize that there was a problem the president had to deal with and breaking out of the bubble of the white house. again in the book, talk about a lot of other president since the one. i just wanted to talk a little
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bit about president obama and then have some summary remarks. president obama does try to keep in touch. he has brilliant posters. we saw the example in a campaign or the posters by joe bennett said from new york outfoxed the republicans in that romney to republican nominee picked a slice and dice the elect great in ways the posters had not done. they use a lot of corporate methods where they would have researchers actually almost lived with their families for long periods of time to get an idea what was going on in the lives of everyday americans. that's very expensive to do. he had the money and he wasn't challenged in primaries. so they came up with a fabulous series, which i've seen a lot of memos on this. a fabulous series of analyses of the american public, particularly swing voters.
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they understood far, far better than the romney campaign did. you see some of these memos and you realize why you did some of the things he did, the phrases in the one. the focus on going back to the middle class, the economy and so on. so anyways, that was one that he did it he does read the letters. all combat to it now. he gets about 40,000 e-mails and letters a day. that's what the white house tells us. the staff boils back down to 10 that they give him every day. he takes them to the residents at night and does read them. sometimes he reads them to his wife, michelle and i talk about what can be done and so on. he is trying to reach out. lots of times this staff does not like this because the letters will then be sent back
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to this staff with annotations from the president. so a farmer in des moines gets five calls from white house senior staffers. the president has read your letter. how can we help? he lost his social security lim. i have to go scurrying around, following up on this staff. president obama really does value these letters and that's important. he does try to break out of washington. he's doing a lot more traveling now than he had been beyond the campaign. he's going to be in san francisco monday, by the way. he does try to break out. as we said earlier, it's difficult to get that human interaction, the president obama tries try to do it. again, we talk about the polling. president obama does try to widen his circle of contacts so that he talks not just in his
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inner circle. there's a problem with that now because this whole health care issue is an example of how even somebody who tries to reach out, like president obama, does, does not succeed because the low rollout of the health care love of obama cared has struck all sorts of embarrassing problems with the website saying president obama said you can keep the planet like a mush as it turned out to true. basically what happened here is he was surrounded by so many president are what i call analyzers. these are staff people who sort of worship him. they don't want to bring him back news. i can't tell you how many white house people i've talked to over the years, not just president obama, who say i don't like to bring the president back news not so much that i'm afraid of this reaction reaction they just don't want to enter his burdens. you hear that a lot. outsiders to turbofans going to
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go when until the president what he was doing wrong. they don't do it. this happens again and again over the years here that is part of the isolation president passed. so how does president obama do it this? he starts out with a black berry. he the secret service didn't want him to keep that black. because they felt the bad guys would track him as we've learned now from other surveillance stuff that's come out, they can track him. so he still uses the blackberry so they can communicate with him directly. he keeps in touch with popular culture. another important for presidents to do. people watching not only in the new sense, but also on television or in the movies. what's going on in the culture? he does keep in touch with god on others to everybody's advantage he tries to do that.
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he also tries to have dinner with his family at 6:30 every night. this may seem like a minor thing, but it goes back to your spouse and family. we shall obama will speak truth to power. she was a baraka, that was not a good speech. you're off on this. you're off on that. there's not many people who will do that for a president except for presidents well. nancy reagan did that for presidents reagan. for president carter. this does happen a lot. the big advantage is key to to his daughters. the doctors see him not as a president, but dad. so i've got a young mike tyson i should've gotten ana. that's basic invaluable to grab the president. they don't particularly care about his great speeches on health osier news conferences. they are talking about his own worlds. it is important for the president to get inside of that
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because they lose contacts with the everyday life in the country. so where does this leave us? i think basically this isolation of the president is a very important problem in the presidents have to use as many avenues as they can. that includes polling. that includes getting out of washington. that includes keeping contact with family and friends out of the country, paying attention to the media, congress and so on. it has to be a priority and a sustained run the presidents keep doing. i don't want to read want to effeminate other constituents from the analysis because we the media are isolated in many ways in washington too. people wonder about these republicans, how come they take such a hard line against president obama? there in their own little worlds, their little districts. they said i can tell you how many told me this.
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president obama won with 53% of the vote. they say i won the 70%. understand attention to the people in my district and i don't care what the rest of the country wants. the unions are in a bubble. we're sort of funny strange little oysters now. people are listening to each other very much and that's a fundamental problem. above all for the president too supposed to represent all of us in is a real challenge to stay in contact, but this is an effort to stay in contract that they need to pay a lot of attention to. with that, i'll take your questions. thank you very much. [applause] >> will follow directions and getting my sea.
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[inaudible] [inaudible] >> i want to remind our radio audience listening to kenneth walsh discuss it as his new book, "prisoners of the white house," which is a fascinating book called the bible that various president seemed to exist in, not a choice, but by design. we are now going to proceed to
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our audience questions. i have the unusual task of trying to juggle a microphone, card and a notebook at the same time, so i'll do my best on this. you talked about at the very end, the notion that everybody's been there a bubble. is there anybody who isn't? >> looking at washington now, i haven't seen it this bad. i think that people are more and more retreating into their own world. you see that in the news, on one side msnbc on the other. people can get their views reinforced. easily and often people don't do anything beyond that. but bounces back to washington
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and a series of cocoons with people. that is really what's going on. i think that the whole notion of why this is happening and why it's so bad just because part of it is like the house of representatives, the whole gerrymandering situation where the districts are created for comments, democrats and republicans. once they are elect it, it is hard to dislodge them. we haven't anti-incumbent moves now. i don't know how that's going to turn out. why vote turnout is albeit anti-washington that would lead to outsiders running against washington, whether democrats or republicans. will have to be in republican presidential race. if hillary clinton wins, she will most clear the field. we have to be careful because
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without that would have been last time. barack obama defeated her, so i never know how these things will work out. when i travel around the country, and see a lot of polling, it is these governors does seem to be more in touch, probably of any political group in the country. the governor seemed to be more in touch than washington. that's where a lot of people return to in the next campaign, particularly republicans. also run the country, that's what people are doing. they're looking to state governors and governors to be more responsive. if you look at the polls come the trust of the governors is much higher than the average, than the trust of washington politicians. but it's part of that whole notion of people don't know where to turn because much of our politics is cocooning now and is oysters and it's very difficult for these people to realize the breakout.
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>> on that encouraging note -- [laughter] you talked about the role alan r. roosevelt played for fdr. >> that's a good point. hillary clinton was not so much a gatherer of information for bill clinton. she was a policymaker. she played a more powerful policymaker than any first lady before or since really. bill could keep in contact with the country on its own quite well. in fact, i think he's far better at that, even today than hillary clinton is. that's one problem she's going to have if she runs, which i think she'll do. but she seen herself more not as a barometer of the public, but a washington policymaker. they tried to get the health care bill that didn't work. after that, she was in charge of that. after that, hillary clinton
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backed off because they were such a failure on the health care bill. hillary really was admiring alan r. roosevelt greatly because they did take policy positions, too. that is the role she played as a policy advisor. >> you talked about her going in the coal mine. just to throw in, she then flew down to guadalcanal was visiting troops they are. >> as the war went on, eleanor broadened her back fighting missions to include visiting troops around the world. there is a famous business she made to try to keep this secret for security reasons. i'm not there was a famous advisor going to show up and i believe that was sydney, australia. it was eleanor. she went to hospitals, troops
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there, soldiers camps and so on. she went to a famous incident they still talk about over there, where she turned up at a community event and saying her she's a jolly good fellow and she loves that. but she also omnes fact-finding missions took the information for own agenda that she wanted to promote. she pushed civil rights. he said, as someone about their presidents have said, if i push for civil rights, going to lose the rest of my gender because of segregation of congress and conservatives who oppose it. so he didn't push a lot. but eleanor felt she could get to agree on some things such as letting the african-american
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troops have some kind of recreational facilities comparable to what the troops had because frankly refused to desegregate the military. that's what harry truman said the executive order. she also, you remember the face case where marian andersen, the african-american cantata ended up would not allow her to speak at their facility in washington. so eleanor arranged with frank wins approval to have her speak at the lincoln memorial, which they became a very iconic moment for the kids this wonderful concert, which eleanor arranged to be broadcast nationally. so eleanor did not only serve as the ice in your server has been, but she also used her travels on what she could do as first lady to affect change. >> you have not yet discussed to presidents who had the same,
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bush. could you compare the bubble quality is of george h. debut? and the sun. >> right. i knew we would get that in the question. both of the administrations from start to finish. president bush, the father was elected. he was the right president for the times when he was selected. two and the cold war, the destruction of the berlin wall and so on. very effectively. he didn't take a lot of credit for it. he always with a highly live for my mother not to pay too much attention to that's a great idea. in other words, control your ego. he always took that to heart. that hurt him because a lot of people want the president to explain what he's doing.
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a lot of political advisers say he has to do that to get the proper credit. bush didn't do that. by midway in his presidency, the country turned again to because the economy in recession no longer wanted a form policy president. and president bush didn't get that. i was like president bush personally. and if you might know him know that he's a gentleman, always decent and generous to people around him. he could never convey those qualities to the country. one other quick point about staying in touch. there was a famous in the netware bush went to a supermarket demonstration. you might remember this. they couldn't get the whole press corps in there, so they took one reporter and put them in their two-day rest of the press corps. the reporter misunderstood what was happening. it was a technology exhibit. what they did is they tore up
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and threw it on the screen and the computer read the barcode that was towing a. at the time, we all would have been surprised at this. that's what he was react to. he had been scanners beauty was aware of the technology. he just didn't understand the barcode tearing up business. that became a symbol he was completely out of touch. he was out of touch in some ways, but this became sort of an iconic setback because people felt she, he doesn't even know what a supermarket is like any more. so anyway, he did lose touch and i think that was a big reason why he lost to bill clinton because clinton was in touch. now we come to president george w. bush. the decider as he called himself. he had this notion that he knew better. he said i am a conviction politician. not in terms of a felony, but in
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terms of believing things. he said i will make my decisions on what i believe and i don't care what anybody else thinks. i'm just going to do what i think is right. now karl rove, his political architect briefed the polls, but often bush really didn't pay that much attention to them. he ended up running for reelection, basically on the idea he could keep the country safe. then he fell into this whole second term jinx our second term the overreached people fell into president obama now is pushing for privatization, partial privatization of social security unpopular in the polls. the iraq war was going very badly. he didn't pay a lot of attention to public opinion on that. the other quick point about bush in isolation as hurricane katrina. he was on vacation at his ranch
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in texas and the terrible hit. i want you to pay attention to us. but president bush did not. people in the state and just baking we need help you somebody please help us. just terrible, sad moment. bush didn't even know. he was out cutting brush and burning up cedar branches. finally, one of his affairs put together a news reel almost summarizing what was going on with images. they said you've got to see this. he looked at it and then he decided to go back home after this was going on for some days. at that point, people were thinking worst the president? thinking back, could you imagine lyndon johnson not going? could you imagine bill clinton not going to somehow show some
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solidarity with these people. but he didn't do it. so he flew over the site on air force one. that became the symbol of the isolation of george bush. botching the management of the hurricane. remember, his federal emergency management guy doing a great job. that didn't turn out to be true. heckuva job, yeah, exactly. that picture was released by the white house and that became the last image of george bush isolated at 35,000 feet, not paying attention to the suffering in the country. just a final point, then i now say this is the moment where he lost the country. people no longer thought he was a good manager they no longer thought he could be trusted to represent what was going on in the country. he really suffers from that and
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not as part of the story of a second term. >> you talked about the intellectual curiosity of bill clinton. how would you apply that phrase to george herbert walker and george w. bush >> intellectual curiosity. i don't think either of them has a lot of intellectual curiosity in the sense of trying to find out things out that. the advantage the father had with vast experience and a lot of things. he had been a businessman, an oilman. he had been director of the central intelligence. he had been heads of the republican national committee. so we did have a lot of theory geeks are your answers. he used that -- he didn't learn a lot in addition when he was president. also president bush the father did. the sun was less willing to learn about things. there was the discussion of
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president bush this time. as he frankly too to be president? you've heard all of this argument. i think he was perfectly the intellectual curiosity. if he didn't need to learn about someone, he wasn't going to learn about it. he didn't learn about terrorism. he just wasn't interested in didn't feel like he needed to learn. that's the problem. >> last caution on george w. bush. there's been speculation in the vice presidents office isolated and really without his knowing it. >> coming more on the relationship. in the beginning, he leans very heavily on dick cheney because he has no experience in foreign
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affairs. you see the interviews with him during the campaign. he didn't know who the world leaders were. it's that muslim guy he was. anyway, cheney select date because cheney has been sent secretary of the white house chief of pass and was very not in washington and didn't know a lot about foreign policy and defense, which listed. in the beginning, he deferred to cheney on a lot of things. as we learn as time went on, bush felt he had learned a lot in so he was overruling cheney. cheney won a further escalation in iraq, and afghanistan. more aggressive use of our forces against terrorism is the one. bush rejected a lot of thought. if so, they did have a falling out. you look at some of the events president bush is having now. the last point on not his
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remember the guide named scooter libby who is vice president cheney's chief of staff. very, very important guide in the administration and he was convicted of putting out information he wasn't supposed to put out and violating classified information restriction. cheney ferments pushed president bush to pardon scooter libby and president bush refused because he thought he had roped in the law and would be punished. there is a tremendous friction that they had buried 2:00 p.m. over the scooter libby business. so the short answer is president bush had a tremendous amount of attention to cheney initially. then it faded as the term and president bush felt he could make these decisions for themselves. >> several people have asked a little more about the role of
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pollsters. there's probably as many pollsters says there are boston reds sox fan. how does the white house -- first of all, does the white house look at all these polls? how do they filter through and figure out which one? >> i'll tell you, all the presidential pollsters since ronald reagan. a brilliant poster for ronald reagan. ronald reagan would have come into the white house to brief them on the month. he didn't want to be understaffed because he felt to be stuck in the factions at the white house in the state as an outsider and insisted on referring the president personally, often just to offend. you would have other staffers interposing themselves. other people did that later, but they want direct access to the president, which is smarter.
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reagan wanted to pay attention to the polls. wilson came up with some of the pioneering techniques that are still here. he's the one that came up with the question, is the country headed in the right direction? or are we off on the wrong track? the famous right track, wrong track question, which to this day is the best indicator of how the president is doing, similar to what people think about right track, wrong track. right now, 70% of americans think of the wrong track. that includes conservatives. everyday people, whatever. but there is a tremendous dissatisfaction with washington right now and i've seen in the right track, wrong track figure. wilson invented a lot of these polling notions. then as time has gone on, it has become more important.
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president obama uses polling extensively today. it outbox the president the last time. the key thing to me is the president should tour the pollster with the polling. but should have other views that he can bounce the polls off people for. so is president obama does do that. i keep coming up with president obama because he's president now of course tgs terrific pollsters. if anything, he probably should listen to them more. i gather they saw some of this with the health care love it president obama's other advisers were not telling him about. so you talk about the bubble. i think they gave him a disservice in an effort to protect her and a sense of hubris. it didn't work out that way. >> one of the contacts that a president inevitably has outside of his elbow as leaders of other foreign countries.
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she went to korea said it could check and balance? >> it's a very good question. presidents tend as everybody does to have more of a relationship for some people than others. sometimes it can be surprising with the president's bond with. if you look at president reagan and president bush the father in president clinton, somehow it was one world leader they would all call during the crisis and just because this person may didn't feel good that things would work out. that was brian mulroney of canada. you would've never imagined that. he was a backslapping, fun-loving guy. for some reason, he just got along well with these american presidents. he was just giving him moral support. that's what it is. i'm not take policy advice very often.
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they get support for the bond with him and get reinforced. a couple quick samples of that as there is no close relationship to repurpose about and what to churchville first of all really saw eye to eye on so many things. that i reinforced a lot of roosevelts views but they disagreed on some things. reagan and margaret thatcher, each event is the close relationship, they got along very well and the two conservatives at a time when they were trying to get their countries to go along with them. and then, bill clinton and tony blair and george w. bush and tony blair delete the image in great britain. he was known as the lapdog, the poodle they called him in the newspapers for the american president. but he was very supportive of both clinton and bush. i think that's what it is. the personality so often it's really what makes it different. not the policy of pace.
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the presidents act on the second buddy system if they can get somebody they can count on to support them or understand what they are doing, is very important. >> what about tapping their cell phones? >> tapping their cell phones. not a happy camper these days. president obama said i didn't know. could he not have known? i find that hard to believe myself. that's happy and i'm sure they did to rise, they try to find out what we are doing and what they're doing. when i first started coming to the white house, one of the senior officials, when were talking, don't stand too close to the windows because the soviet embassy is up on a hill and they have sophisticated but in devices that we know they can harass if we are too close to the wind heirs. so you can imagine what happened now. so these things are so sophisticated now, but the
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surveillance is a problem for the administration that all us come out. >> where the little time left. there's several questions that are outside of the technical scope of your book. i want your expertise first on your feeling about the senate's vote yesterday to change the filibuster moves. the mac way. what is happening now after many years, the senate has changed as part of the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to approve a president's nomination for senior officers and the government that judges. not the supreme court, but the judges. simple majority. a lot of americans are surprised about why did we take 51 votes anyways? over the time, they came into the notion that they wanted to protect the rights of the minority in the senate, which is where this is all focus.
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but now what has happened is the republican minority has bought so many things, so many judges, so many appointments that finally the white house and senator harry reid, the democratic leader called as the nuclear option because it's got the republicans so angry. now, what the republicans are saying, ok, we take over the senate. what should we do? were not going to let you guys have the minority blocking things. so you know, that's the other part of it. they did have the filibuster rule. morrison made of that and should be right now because people say president obama can name a lot of judges now. you don't learn the supreme court we have basically a service majority. until that changes, i think it is a bad analogy that he's going to be a lot to get a lot of policies in the courts now
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because you still have the supreme court. but i think it is an example of how everybody is for every advantage in washington and this is another example of the democrats feeling the republican minority has had too much power in blocking things. so they finally taken steps to start changing them. >> lengthy nlrb for a long time. >> a number of courts around the country don't have judges to handle the workload because they've been blocked. they stalled. they wait so long that these people say i got to go do something else, so it becomes a real anchor, weighed down the judiciary in a lot of ways.
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>> they were smart enough they could coit in house. there's a tremendous number of people they had in the campaign who are technical wizards that they should have used. they didn't do that. now they're bringing in business, corporate experts on technology, a lot of young people are now trying to get
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this fixed. but the damage has been done to the credibility of the program now, and it's going to take a while to get this fixed and to get it working. they're saying that by the end of the month the enrollment web site will be working for most people. we'll see. but it's, what it is, the big problem with it is that it undermines the cornerstone of president obama's approach to government which is that the government can be relied on to be competent and get things done. we don't want to, i don't think, take this too far, but it's certainly been a black eye for the government so far in trying to take this on. and you wonder, it was signature initiative of president obama. should he have been paying more anticipation to how this was all -- attention to how this was all happening? i think, yes. but i think he was relying on the people around him to give him candid assessments of what was going on, and they missed the boat. they just medsed up, and that's really -- messed up, and that's really wherer.
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>> was that a bubble, or was it messing up? >> well, it was both. i don't think they felt, i don't think they understood, part of the bubble is that they didn't understand how complicated this was going to be and how one thing leads to other consequences that they could or could not foresee. you know, the whole notion now is can you get enough healthy people, particularly young people, to sign up so that there's enough money in the system to pay for the people who are sick who need the care. and that's all been a corner -- always been a cornerstone of this whole law, that young people in particular, healthy people, will sign up for it. we don't know if the they will. another consultant made the point to me the other day that you have some of the people who are least technologically able are supposed to sign up using technology. and so that's part of the problem. people hike old folks who may
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not -- like old folks who may not be that into the web and stuff are supposed to sign up through this thing. my mother would not know how to do this. and so just this one level of consequence after another. and i don't think that was anticipated. but i think, you know, there's still a chance it'll work out. it'll take some time. but, you know, president obama has a lot of things he wants to do domestically and in foreign affairs, and so will this mean there'll be less willingness of even the democrats to go along with some of this stuff? it may mean that. >> right. he has three years left -- >> yeah. >> and he has immigration reform. >> i was just working op a -- on a blog about that. he's not anywhere near being a lame duck. i mean, he's still got a lot of power. what you're going to see is him bypassing congress more and more. you're going to see him not only in foreign policy which presidents can do more easily on domestic issues, you're going to see him try to work out deals on
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syria, on iran, try to work out something between the israelis and the palestinians. that's always a challenge. but presidents have a lot of latitude on foreign affairs which he'll use. they don't go through congress many times. but on domestic issues, you're going to see a lot more executive actions. executive order toes, unilateral actions. you're about to see a huge fuss over climate change. the eps is about to -- epa is about to issue regulations to make it more difficult for coal-fired plants to be built, and this has caused a huge mess in coal states like a, west virginia. the democrats are opposed to the administration on this, but it looks like president obama's going to let the epa put these rules into effect, bypassing congress and, again, they'll probably end up in the supreme court. >> it always does. >> yeah. unfortunately, sometimes it always does.


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